3

votes

What is the optimal hip to waist ratio for women?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 20, 2011 at 7:56 PM

There's been a few questions lately about BMI and body fat percentage so I wondered what people's opinions about hip to waist ratio are? I've heard this is a good indicator of visceral as opposed to subcutaneous fat. As I understand it women should have a ratio of 0.7 and men's should be about 0.8. I am a 45 yr old female, 5'6" and weigh 57kg (about 125 pounds). According to my scales, which are probably inaccurate, my body fat is about 19%. So I don't think I need to lose weight. However my hip measurement is 37 inches and my waist is 30 inches. According to the ratio my waist should be 26 inches. I always feel pudgy round the middle and despite having been paleo for over a year now I seem stuck with my belly. I had a hysterectomy about 2 years so not sure if that's got anything to do with it. (I didn't go through menopause at the time because I have an ovarian remnant - I think that's just about been killed off now and the doctor has put me on the HRT Livial to keep it in check). So should I be worrying about visceral fat? And is there anything I can do to get rid of my podge? - I'm not expecting a six pack but it would be good to get jeans that fit (they normally hang off my non-existent backside!)

Ac1e55cf06c2180f4008ff01953d10dd

(3524)

on September 07, 2013
at 01:28 AM

I know this ratio is permanently altered (meaning not so slender waist) for women that have had pregnancies, even some bones change position, etc. I do not know if this applies in your case though.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 14, 2012
at 10:27 PM

I always thought the waist to hip ratio was sketchy at best, because in it's nature it will be biased or skewed for women with smaller hips.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 23, 2012
at 12:47 AM

No six-pack necessary!!

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on January 22, 2012
at 03:07 PM

Well said. Another example of how the devil's in the details. If you're clean, healthy and maybe rockin' that 6pack you'll look and feel great no matter what that pesky ratio is.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 22, 2012
at 04:15 AM

And I have to add I think measurements in inches and the ratios between them are quite unimportant when it comes to looking good. :)

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 22, 2012
at 04:13 AM

I don't think torso length dictates how small your waist is. I know long-waisted women with thicker middles due to bone structure and weight distribution even when thin, and short-waisted women with that nipped-in waist (like my mom, sisters and I - I also have 1" between my ribcage and pelvis yet the smallest waist of all three of us). It's more about how small and v-shaped your ribs are, if we're looking for the most important factor.

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on January 21, 2012
at 08:19 PM

P.S. I have to point out that a short torso is NOT the same as a boyish figure. I have a very curvy figure despite a short torso because my rib cage is narrow as well as short, 34DDD, big butt, big shoulders to create the hourglass.

828429fe885f42968c0519d5b84cec40

(608)

on November 30, 2011
at 07:34 AM

The .7 ideal does have merit. It is around that ratio that women are the most fertile, and consequently the ratio men find most attractive. The reason it is so attractive is because it signifies a female that will bear many healthy children. Sounds pretty paleo to me.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 18, 2011
at 07:55 PM

@Alexandra, do you have some stats/studies tying PCOS etiology to fetal environment, soy formula, sugar, carbs, etc.? For example, soy contains phytoestrogens, whereas PCOS is partly a problem of over-androgenization--so it would be counter-intuitive that soy would cause PCOS.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 18, 2011
at 06:43 PM

This is a real shame. I think the PCOS and insulin resistance have root causes in many cases from poor fetal environment (overweight, diabetic insulin resistant mother) combined with soy formula and tons of sugar and highly refined carb diet plus insufficient protein and quality fats. Women are often embarrassed to breast feed. Tragic.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 18, 2011
at 05:31 PM

@AuH2Ogirl, I agree that lifestyle can change the partitioning between visceral and subcutaneous fat, but as I noted in my answer, the questioner had already been paleo for over a year, so visceral fat had probably already been dealt with. The sequence of subcutaneous fat gain and loss is likely due to gender and genetics. Martin Berkhan has a great post on stubborn body fat here: http://www.leangains.com/2010/06/intermittent-fasting-and-stubborn-body.html

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 18, 2011
at 04:29 PM

You've be surprised how many young women in the US have things like PCOS.

0e2772604bdb3627525b42d77340538b

(953)

on November 18, 2011
at 03:43 PM

Not entirely true. As many women who have gone paleo know, a change in diet will redirect your fat storage, to some extent.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 18, 2011
at 10:44 AM

Daniel: I had to erase your comment because of the profanity. I still object to it as it is. There's got to be a better way to say this.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:28 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: http://thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And to the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:26 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And to the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:25 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: http://thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

3fa1da906c426b335569644f8a908024

on November 18, 2011
at 06:35 AM

that's just rude.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 04:42 AM

Optimal for fuckability (attracting straight men) is about .7. I hope you chose your parents wisely, and also made sure to get other biological markers of health & fertility, some of which are listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_attractiveness#Facial_features .

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on January 23, 2011
at 02:10 AM

I agree with the lack of control over out shapes. It just happens that both my mom's and my body have very little of a waist. I will never be an hour glass woman, I am boyish, that's all.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 21, 2011
at 10:30 PM

I have had two kids and I have never had an hour glass figure. I suppose the downside of always having been skinny in the hips and behind is that my waist seems relatively larger.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 21, 2011
at 10:26 PM

Hate to admit it but I got the 0.7 from the Art De Vany's new book. His diet looks way too low fat to me so I think I will ignore him. That's the blessing of this site - someone is always the voice of reason.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 21, 2011
at 10:21 PM

Sleep has been a big issue for me lately because of the menopausal hot flushes and I'm really hoping that this new HRT will sort that out. Have started some body weight exercises (my attempts at push ups are hilarious!) and going to get going with the HIIT. Thanks for the thoughts - very helpful.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 21, 2011
at 01:09 AM

N R G. .

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:54 AM

+1 You can't direct a spot reduction--you will lose bodyfat where your body wants to lose it. Sad, but true.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Sleep is still and issue for me. If I feel this good now, I wonder what would happen if I actually got good quality sleep.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:03 PM

HIIT an sleep are the two largest impacts for those last few pounds too

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 20, 2011
at 09:27 PM

Paleo plus HIIT is what finally dropped my last 10lbs and got my body comp exactly where I want it.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 20, 2011
at 09:12 PM

Well there's nothing else for it... the only thing I don't do on that list is the HIIT! I think I just ran out of excuses.

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5 Answers

best answer

2
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on January 20, 2011
at 08:15 PM

The ratio is more an evolutionary psychology idea about those idea ratios. What I have read puts women around 20% BF.

Perhaps yours is simply a matter of where the fat is resting. Visceral fat is important to get rid of.

The most important thing is that you need to do this because it makes YOU feel good, not because literature tells you that your body should be shaped like Y or Z.

Ive posted my 10step paleo weight loss in a few other threads. Will help you peel off the visceral fat if thats your goal.

http://paleohacks.com/questions/6239/just-the-begining/6250#6250

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 20, 2011
at 10:03 PM

HIIT an sleep are the two largest impacts for those last few pounds too

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 20, 2011
at 09:12 PM

Well there's nothing else for it... the only thing I don't do on that list is the HIIT! I think I just ran out of excuses.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 20, 2011
at 09:27 PM

Paleo plus HIIT is what finally dropped my last 10lbs and got my body comp exactly where I want it.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Sleep is still and issue for me. If I feel this good now, I wonder what would happen if I actually got good quality sleep.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on January 21, 2011
at 01:09 AM

N R G. .

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 21, 2011
at 10:21 PM

Sleep has been a big issue for me lately because of the menopausal hot flushes and I'm really hoping that this new HRT will sort that out. Have started some body weight exercises (my attempts at push ups are hilarious!) and going to get going with the HIIT. Thanks for the thoughts - very helpful.

7
6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:49 AM

@qotsa,
First of all, basic body shape, eg. "pear" vs. "apple," is something inherited that you have no control over. Please try not to worry about that which you cannot control.

You can control your lifestyle, which you are already doing. Your lifestyle is healthy. Your total bodyfat is healthy. Your overall cardiovascular risk is probably quite low.

Who says .7 is the "ideal" ratio, anyway? I looked at some of the WHR calculator websites, and they're all over the map. Here's one from Rush University in Chicago that says up to .8 is "low risk" for women, and you have to be >1 to be "at risk." Also, a waist measurement of 35in. or greater is "at risk," and you're not even close to that. Here's one that quotes the American Heart Association as saying that a ratio of less than .88 for women is low risk. So I would urge you not to get over-invested in that .7 number.

If you've been paleo for over a year, your visceral fat is probably mostly gone anyway. If you lose weight from here, your waist/hip ratio may increase, decrease, or stay the same. You can't direct a spot reduction--you will lose bodyfat where your body wants to lose it.

C61399790c6531a0af344ab0c40048f1

on January 21, 2011
at 10:26 PM

Hate to admit it but I got the 0.7 from the Art De Vany's new book. His diet looks way too low fat to me so I think I will ignore him. That's the blessing of this site - someone is always the voice of reason.

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:54 AM

+1 You can't direct a spot reduction--you will lose bodyfat where your body wants to lose it. Sad, but true.

A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

(4896)

on January 23, 2011
at 02:10 AM

I agree with the lack of control over out shapes. It just happens that both my mom's and my body have very little of a waist. I will never be an hour glass woman, I am boyish, that's all.

0e2772604bdb3627525b42d77340538b

(953)

on November 18, 2011
at 03:43 PM

Not entirely true. As many women who have gone paleo know, a change in diet will redirect your fat storage, to some extent.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 18, 2011
at 05:31 PM

@AuH2Ogirl, I agree that lifestyle can change the partitioning between visceral and subcutaneous fat, but as I noted in my answer, the questioner had already been paleo for over a year, so visceral fat had probably already been dealt with. The sequence of subcutaneous fat gain and loss is likely due to gender and genetics. Martin Berkhan has a great post on stubborn body fat here: http://www.leangains.com/2010/06/intermittent-fasting-and-stubborn-body.html

828429fe885f42968c0519d5b84cec40

(608)

on November 30, 2011
at 07:34 AM

The .7 ideal does have merit. It is around that ratio that women are the most fertile, and consequently the ratio men find most attractive. The reason it is so attractive is because it signifies a female that will bear many healthy children. Sounds pretty paleo to me.

4
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 18, 2011
at 03:14 AM

I hate to resurrect an old question, but I've been researching this a lot and I think it's important. It's not true that you can't alter your WHR. I altered mine (.8 to .69), so did my mother. A woman who has had children or is older will naturally have a higher WHR though and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Dr. Lassek and anthropologist Steven Gaulin have theorized that lower WHR allows women to have their first baby be relatively small, which is good because the pelvic bones haven't stretched much. But once they are stretched, a woman can afford to have larger babies, which have a higher survival ratio. Waist fat is associated with larger babies and cross-culturally women start having more when they have more children. Even if a woman doesn't have children, there is selective pressure to have that bigger waist because in the past if a woman started late, she would producing fewer children and so it's more important for them to survive considering ancient infant mortality rates.

But it's not all bad news for older women because you hip bones keep growing until you are 70, which affects the WHR. Childbirth also widens them.

They are releasing a diet book in Dec which I just read an advance copy of. They also have a free paper here. Unfortunately, some of the fat distribution is laid down during early development and then during puberty, but I think most women can alter their WHR a little towards the favorable end, which is associated with better health, attractiveness, and fertility. Ideally this is .68 to .93, but if you are younger you should look more towards .7 You can't spot reduce by restricting calories, you are going to need to alter your hormones (leptin in particular plays a role). It's not just anecdotal either, it's been documented in studies. Interesting they originally theorized that in obese women, it was their excessive body fat that was causing fertility issues, but in studies they were perplexed by the fact that some women restored fertility with weight loss and others didn't. However when they looked at WHR they found that this was the important thing, that women who had shifted WHR were the ones who restored their fertility.

47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on November 18, 2011
at 10:44 AM

Daniel: I had to erase your comment because of the profanity. I still object to it as it is. There's got to be a better way to say this.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:28 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: http://thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And to the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:26 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And to the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on November 18, 2011
at 08:25 AM

You can increase or decrease bodyfat %; you can slightly widen obliques with exercise, but there isn't a damn thing you can do about bone structure. Women with narrow hips are sh*t outta luck in this regard. Example: http://thenubiannews.com/news/sports/jones_sm.jpg And the individual who objected to my use of the term "f**kability"--that's simply reality. Men are highly attracted to hourglass figures--for very good biological reasons.

1
88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

on January 21, 2012
at 07:31 PM

I second the comment about having a short torso vs. a long torso. I got into T-Tapp workouts last year (need to get back to it, fell off the wagon over the holidays) and Teresa Tapp has extensive explanations in her book and videos about the distance between the top of your pelvic bone and the bottom of your rib cage. Basically, the larger the distance, the smaller waist you can have. A long-torso person will have 6-8 inches where the only bone is the spine. You can make that area smaller with fat loss and exercise. In contrast, my short torso has about an inch of space between the pelvic bone and rib cage. I can't make bone get smaller. So I could literally starve to death and still not have a 25" waist. If you buy tops in the Petite section even though you're over 5'3", you are definitely a short torso. To conclude, if you have a very short torso, you will have a harder time getting to that ideal waist-to-hip ratio, if it's even possible--which I would say invalidates the utility of that measurement for those folks. (That's my excuse and I'm stickin' to it!)

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on January 22, 2012
at 03:07 PM

Well said. Another example of how the devil's in the details. If you're clean, healthy and maybe rockin' that 6pack you'll look and feel great no matter what that pesky ratio is.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 22, 2012
at 04:15 AM

And I have to add I think measurements in inches and the ratios between them are quite unimportant when it comes to looking good. :)

88a669ef87f8138d6bbfbdace533a482

(425)

on January 21, 2012
at 08:19 PM

P.S. I have to point out that a short torso is NOT the same as a boyish figure. I have a very curvy figure despite a short torso because my rib cage is narrow as well as short, 34DDD, big butt, big shoulders to create the hourglass.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 22, 2012
at 04:13 AM

I don't think torso length dictates how small your waist is. I know long-waisted women with thicker middles due to bone structure and weight distribution even when thin, and short-waisted women with that nipped-in waist (like my mom, sisters and I - I also have 1" between my ribcage and pelvis yet the smallest waist of all three of us). It's more about how small and v-shaped your ribs are, if we're looking for the most important factor.

26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

(7967)

on January 23, 2012
at 12:47 AM

No six-pack necessary!!

1
27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 18, 2011
at 03:51 PM

I don't place much worth in the so-called "ideal" ratios. First of all, if a woman has a short torso (measured vertically -- boyish shape when slender), she will automatically have a larger waist measurement than someone with a long torso that nips in -- (hourglass shape when slender) irrespective of body fat. Enlarged uterus from uterine fibroids -- especially subserous fibroids -- will also make a waist measurement inaccurate in terms of body fat. I think women concerned about fertility should have their children at the biologically appropriate ideal age ranges rather than waiting until 30s and 40s when decades of poor dietary and sleep habits combined with natural hormonal declines have already started to take their toll and increasingly even earlier. So many young women resorting to IVF -- something is wrong and I don't think a few pounds here or there is the real problem. If underweight alone was the issue, why do women in famine countries get pregnant over and over again while the typical US career woman who "wanted it all" and waited until late 30s or 40s to have a child after decades of stress, crap diet, artificial hormones etc has a devil of a time getting preggers? Is it possible to load up on hormones and fertility drugs to force aging ovaries to produce many more eggs than would be considered natural in order to maximize chances for a pregnancy over 40? Of course. Is it ideal? Of course not. Are there sometimes unintended consequences? Yes.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on November 18, 2011
at 04:29 PM

You've be surprised how many young women in the US have things like PCOS.

27361737e33ba2f73ab3c25d2699ad61

(1880)

on November 18, 2011
at 06:43 PM

This is a real shame. I think the PCOS and insulin resistance have root causes in many cases from poor fetal environment (overweight, diabetic insulin resistant mother) combined with soy formula and tons of sugar and highly refined carb diet plus insufficient protein and quality fats. Women are often embarrassed to breast feed. Tragic.

6426d61a13689f8f651164b10f121d64

(11488)

on November 18, 2011
at 07:55 PM

@Alexandra, do you have some stats/studies tying PCOS etiology to fetal environment, soy formula, sugar, carbs, etc.? For example, soy contains phytoestrogens, whereas PCOS is partly a problem of over-androgenization--so it would be counter-intuitive that soy would cause PCOS.

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